The big name metal bands may get most of the spotlight, but Metallica and Black Sabbath are just the tip of the heavy iceberg. Every week we search out and share lesser known or unsigned acts that deserve to be heard by a wider audience. For today’s edition of Unearthing the Metal Underground you’ll get a dose of metal that bucks specific trends and expresses a heavy sound in unexpected ways.
For all the focus on rebellion and the disdain for conformity, heavy metal is undeniably a style of music that breaks down into very regimented genres – black metal, thrash, grindcore, etc. There tends to be a rigid confinement that bands are expected stay within when creating music, and stepping outside those boundaries either leads to derision by hordes of anonymous Internet posters, or the formation of yet another sub-genre.
While there’s a whole division of metal devoted to ignoring those boundaries (prog and avant-garde), some bands simply blur the lines between styles naturally and don’t easily fit in one recognizable category. Breaking the strictures set down by the worldwide conclave of elitist metalheads , these three bands start with a standardized form of metal and then head in unexpected directions that set them apart and make them unique.
The solo band from Tim Yatras of Austere and Woods of Desolation, Germ is a project that exudes a pure love of music, no matter where the sonic inspiration originally comes from. Starting out with a highly atmospheric form of black metal using totally indecipherable vocals, the act then blends in shades of rock and other mainstream elements, including the use of clean singing. Going even a step further, the new album “Wish” mixes in trance and electronic elements, at times sounding almost like an ‘80s movie soundtrack. In a nod to the black metal roots, there is a bit of a lo-fi aura filtering everything, and the harsh vocals screech out from the background, just barely breaking out of the surrounding noise.
What’s interesting about Germ is that its particular blend of these styles rarely sounds like anything else out there. The collision of trance and black metal sounds essentially nothing like Nachtmystium’s forays into similar territory, and it also never falls into any resembling the dance metal or dubstep collaborations that have become par for the course lately.
For a condensed look at this intriguing mixup, check out the four minute track “Asteroid of Sorrow” below, or for a longer float down the cosmic highway that is Germ, instead dive headfirst into the 10 minute sublime ride “An Overdose on Cosmic Galaxy.” To check out more from Germ, head over to the band’s Facebook profile.
“An Overdose on Cosmic Galaxy”
Can a “trashy Victorian glam” look and one big video hit lead the way to sell more than one million copies of an album? If it’s the late eighties, the name of the band is Britny Fox, and that hit is “Girlschool”, the answer is YES.
Britny Fox formed in 1985 in Philadelphia. The band was originally fronted by lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist "Dizzy" Dean Davidson. The band also featured Billy Childs on bass, former Cinderella guitarist Michael Kelly Smith on lead guitar and former Cinderella drummer Tony Destra on drums. Soon after securing a major recording contract (via their Cinderella connections) Tony Destra was killed in a car accident. Facing a tour, the band recruited drummer, John Diteodoro.
The band released a demo in 1986 titled “In America”, which drummer Tony Destra played on, and a demo in 1987 titled “Rock Is Gonna Fight”, which drummer Adam West played on. The band's self-titled debut album, released in 1988, was one of the most successful premieres, selling more than one million copies. They also won Metal Edge Magazine's 1988 Reader's Choice Award for Best New Band. Much of the success was due to the track titled “Girlschool” and the all-important video that received much air time on MTV. The loyal followers of this band are quick to point out the album as a whole made Britny Fox successful, and that may be true. But there is no denying what kick started their success. More...
This week a look at three new videos, first, Beggars & Thieves teaches us gun safety, and then Hart celebrates the eighties with an ultimate tribute. Finally, it’s the Killer Klowns sending us on our way with a beat-your-head its Friday tune. More...
Each week in Unearthing the Metal Underground, we'll be putting a few quality underground bands in the spotlight in an attempt to get the word out about them. This week I take on the ever emerging Italian power metal scene.
When one thinks Italian power metal, likely the first band to come to mind is Rhapsody, or as time and subsequent “amicable splits” would have it: Rhapsody of Fire and/or Luca Turilli’s Rhapsody. Italy has been spawning off power metal far back into the 1980’s with bands like Domine, Wotan, Wyvern and White Skull, but few have ever reached such worldwide stardom as Rhapsody/Rhapsody of Fire/LT Rhapsody.
As the 90’s commenced, one of the other well-known pioneering Italian power/progressive exports, Labyrinth, was just starting out under the moniker Visions. It wasn’t until 1994 that the name Labyrinth was born. Within that same year or shortly after, Rhapsody would just start out along with bands like Drakkar, Arthemis, Derdian, Heimdall and Power Symphony. The late ’90’s would see a greater emergence of the scene with another well-known export Elvenking, along with Vision Divine (with Rhapsody vocalist Fabio Lione) Spellblast, The Dogma and Rapid Fire.
By the time the new century started, the Italian scene was bursting with talented power metal acts. Power metal bands seem to pop up on a more frequent basis that new gellato flavors, however, trying to locate the best of the emerging talent isn’t as easy as consulting the Yelp application on your smart phone. To provide some guidance, this week we introduce three of the lessor known Italian power metal bands: From the Depth, Aeternal Seprium and Nightland. More...
Believe it or else, there was a time when death metal didn’t consist of bands who looked and sounded exactly the same, when it was an exciting new genre, spurred on by the likes of Possessed and Kreator. Like all genres, it had some bands that stood out more than others, and one group who stood out due to their undeniable quality and fresh approach, was Obituary. Obituary were originally formed by brothers John and Donald Tardy under the name Executioner in 1984, before altering their moniker to Xecutioner, prior to finally (and wisely) changing their name once again in 1988 to Obituary. Soon after the final name change, they entered Morrisound Studios to record with Scott Burns, who within the studio, also produced several other extreme metal classics such as "Effigy of the Forgotten" by Suffocation and a number of albums by Cannibal Corpse. The result was their first album, "Slowly We Rot," which was released in the summer of 1989 through Roadracer Records. The album was very well received, and many Obituary fans still regard it as their heaviest record to date. They were soon faced with the task of finding new members however, as guitarist Allen West and bass player Daniel Tucker parted company with the group, leaving their shoes to be filled by former Death guitarist James Murphy and hardcore loving bassist Frank Watkins respectively. This new lineup soon recorded a second album, "Cause Of Death," released the next year to similar praise. The album featured artwork by Michael Whelan which was originally going to be used by Sepultura for their "Beneath The Remains" album, but Obituary were allowed to use it first. It also contained a cover of the classic Celtic Frost song, "Circle of the Tyrants" and is today regarded as a true classic in the death metal genre.
This would prove to be their only record with Murphy, as the band welcomed Allen West back into the fold soon afterwards. They got to work on their third album, "The End Complete," which remains the biggest selling record to date, shifting well over half a million copies worldwide and gaining the band their first entry into the Billboard charts, peaking at number 16 on the Top Heatseekers chart. Although were not able to replicate this commercial success with the follow up, "World Demise," they made much of a profound statement, particularly with the music video for the album opener, "Don’t Care," which was seen as an environmental protest song, and featured shocking images of pollution. The album featured a number of other bleak sounding songs too, "Final Thoughts," "Lost" and the title track in particular. It would be three years before they released another record, which finally came in 1997 under the title, "Back From the Dead," the first Obituary album not to be produced by Scott Burns. The record received mixed reviews and, owing mostly to a lack of desire for touring, the band decided to call it a day soon after its release, marking their breakup with a live album suitably entitled, "Dead." More...
Okay, so he never really left, that was just a dream. Poison front man Bret Michaels (Poison) has released a brand new video for his new single “Get Your Rock On”, featuring Phil Collen (Def Leppard) and Sal Coz (My Darkest Days). The video was filmed during Michaels' 2011/2012 solo tour. "Get Your Rock On" is the title track from Bret's upcoming solo album of the same name. The single is available on iTunes along with a cover of Poison’s “Nothing But A Good Time”, featuring former KISS guitarist Ace Frehley and Chickenfoot bassist Michael Anthony. So, is it just me or is Bret Michaels trying to become the “Kevin Bacon Six Degrees” of eighties rockers? More...
That familiar old school and brutal sound is the foundation on which much of extreme metal is based, but death metal has come a long way since its origins, and plenty of bands have taken it closer the extremes of human ability.
Technical death metal pushes the boundaries of the style, making the music faster, more intricate, and sometimes absurdly complex. Tech-death also generally puts the bass more up toward the front than in either the brutal or melodic varieties, which often leads to some crossover into “progressive” territory and adds a grounding in melody for a point of reference in the storm of metal.
While acts like Obscura and The Faceless get plenty of press and are fairly well known in the metal world, this week we’re going to unearth three lesser-known acts that should be in your technical death metal rotation.
This newly formed Icelandic group is getting ready to release a debut album later on during the summer, dropping an apocalyptic death metal bomb filled with blistering solos and plenty of brutality. The tracks that have been released so far will definitely appeal to fans of Necrophagist or similar acts. Check out tech-death insanity below by listening to the title track off the new album “Solvet Saeclum” or the earlier demo track “Zone of Alienation.”
Looking at how big and branched out the doom metal scene has become in recent years, one can't help but look back to the pioneers of the first wave of Black Sabbath/Coven worship. Besides Witchfinder General, Candlemass, St. Vitus and Pentagram, there is the almighty Trouble. I respect the hell out of this band for its sheer heaviness and iconic style, making them a true American treasure. I've had the pleasure of seeing this great band live three times in my life, each time a complete and total assault of my auditory senses.
Back in the late seventies, guitarist Bruce Franklin and vocalist Eric Wagner were in a high school band in Chicago by the name of Wisecrack and eventually joined guitarist Rick Wartell to form Trouble. The line-up was rounded out with Tim Brown on bass and Jeff 'Oly' Olson on drums. By 1983 the bass was taken over by Sean McAllister, who had ironically borrowed a bass guitar from the man who would become Trouble's bassist for sixteen years - Ron Holzner, who had went to school with Trouble's number one roadie. Jeff Olson was from Maine, but his family had relocated to Chicago where he attended high school. The rest is history. More...
Earlier this week American Dog gave fans a taste of their new album, and now they have released a Rob Kern directed video for the debut single "Just Like Charlie Sheen." The track appears on American Dog's sixth studio album, "Poison Smile," due for release on June 8th via Colonial Canine in North America and Bad Reputation in Europe.
It was just over a year ago when Charlie Sheen took over the news claiming "tiger blood and Adonis DNA." Sheen ranted to anyone who would listen while sitting in smoked filled rooms figuring out how to get the movie Major League 3 made. Along with his two porn star girlfriends (Charlie has since been inducted into The Wilt Chamberlin Hall of Fame – Gene Simmons is the only other member) Sheen went on tour and somehow got a new television deal. Should Sheen be looking for a soundtrack to his life (or Major League 3) he may want to give American Dog a ring.
The video shows the band members dressed as Charlie’s characters from Platoon, Major League, and Two and Half Men. There is also a "girl" in heavy red lipstick that is both disturbing and VERY HIGH on the comedy scale. The song is typical American Dog, very course and very high energy blues. This band is big with the biker crowd which makes sense given Charlie Sheen seems like he may be appreciated in this group as well. It would have been nice to see a "Bud Fox" character and maybe a reference to Blue Star airlines would have been nice. Still, this video is entertaining and the song will play well at the Hamburg Harley Days Event in Germany and the Rock and Blues Custom Show in England.
Each week we check in with hard rock and metal acts to get their pit stories from memorable live shows. Metal gigs may be home to intense moshing and shredding solos, but it's also a place where magic can happen and love can blossom. Of course, none of that will be happening in this week's pit stories.
Today we've got two stories of love gone wrong at metal shows from Unsu and Insain, which both signed to Kaotoxin Records earlier this year. First up is Unsu, with the following tale of a strip tease that ended up showing more than the audience was expecting:
Once there was a girl in the audience. She climbed on the stage and started to strip. She actually was a guy in fishnets, in fact. So, during the whole stong, I've played with his balls with the microphone. This actually was at the Lille WinterFest #1 in Lille and you can hear Micky screaming "Elle a une bite!," which translates in "Sha has a dick!" on the bonus live tracks of "The Filthy."
Vocalist Louis from Insain also had this story to share of missing a few not-so-subtle hints from a female fan: More...
Though many touring bands are starting to make inroads in China, with most of them bypassing government censors by way of venturing to the Middle Kingdom on tourist visas rather than foolishly attempting to secure an elusive performance visa, few metal bands from China are able to tour outside the country due to the government’s travel restrictions placed on the Chinese people.
“How can that be?” you might ask. “Chinese tourists are everywhere these days, spending RMB like they’re going out of style.” Well, what you might not know is that each and every one of these tourists is only allowed to become well-heeled because they’ve posted what is essentially a large cash bond that is meant to ensure their return to China. And as we all know, being in a metal band and the ability to post a large cash bond are pretty much mutually exclusive.
Getting out is made all the more difficult when you’re a musician playing what is regarded by many authorities in China as a dangerous and highly disruptive form of music. Hell, some bands in China even get banned by the government from playing in their own country, which is exactly what happened to Ordnance, a modern-era Sepultura-esque band from the capital. Ordnance drew the Communist Party’s ire for its overtly subversive lyrical content, and now can basically only perform in the guitar player’s own venue, 13 Club in Beijing. Freedom of expression? Not in Mao’s house.
As another case in point, Painkiller magazine, the nation’s top metal publication, has sponsored a national Wacken Open Air Battle for local bands for the past few years, with the winner gaining a spot at the venerable German festival to beat all festivals. However, in the history of this competition only one band has thus far managed to secure the right to travel outside China and make it to the fest, while the other winners have had to resign themselves to merely enjoying the pride of winning.
Luckily, though, none of this can stop us from reporting on some bands from China that are worth checking out, all of whom made an appearance at the 2012 rendition of the Wacken Battle. We’ll start in Beijing on this week’s installment of Unearthing the Metal Underground.
Ready to Die
Female-fronted five-piece Ready to Die plays an old school, filthy brand of death metal that would fit right on the Ibex Moon label alongside acts like Funerus, or decimating the stage at St. Vitus in New York with Disma. Taking cues from Obituary, Bolt Thrower, and other plodding death metal bands of similar, sludgy taste, Ready to Die is a band that places its focus on simplicity, opting for the one-punch knockout riff rather than the overwhelming jabs and slaps of abject technicality.
The band’s front woman has a growl that could rip the short and curlies off of any of her male counterparts, as can be heard on their lo-fi demo that’s currently streaming online. The production really captures the overall atmosphere of death metal’s early days. This band is one to watch in the Middle Kingdom, and yet another reason to wish that it could be easier for bands from China to actually tour outside their home country. More...
A few weeks ago, Sunday Old School took a look at Swedish progressive metal outfit Opeth, which was followed by suggestions to cover other prog metal bands such as Dream Theater. We’ll definitely touch on them and other big name prog metal bands soon, but before that happens, perhaps it would be wise to examine the band that influenced almost every progressive rock band going today. Unfortunately, we don’t cover Pink Floyd, so this week we’ll be looking at Rush instead. Rush was formed in 1968 by schoolmates Alex Lifeson (born Alexandar Zivojinovich) and John Rutsey, who played guitar and drums respectively, along with singing bass player Jeff Jones, who was replaced by Geddy Lee, another former schoolmate of Lifesons, soon afterwards. They performed regularly in their local scene before releasing their first single, a cover of the Buddy Holly track, "Not Fade Away," which performed poorly. After struggling to impress record companies, they decided to release their self-titled debut album themselves in 1974, which once again had lacklustre sales at first, until a radio station in Cleveland, Ohio got hold of the record and began playing the song, "Working Man" on a regular basis. The song struck a chord with working class rock fans and soon "Rush" was re-released in the United States through Mercury Records.
Due to problems with diabetes, Rutsey decided to leave the band for the sake of his health, eventually being replaced by Hamilton native, Neil Peart, whose first concert with the band was opening for Uriah Heep to an audience of 11,000. Peart also took over the role as chief lyricist and the next year, Rush released their second album, "Fly By Night," which was better received than their previous effort and peaked on the Billboard 200 at 113. They followed this with, "Caress Of Steel," which featured only five tracks and was a commercial and critical disappointment. Although the record company urged Rush to record more radio friendly music, they instead got to work on their most ambitious record at that point, which was released in April 1976 as, "2112." The album contained a twenty minute long title track split into seven parts and became their first Platinum album in Canada, eventually going on to be Triple Platinum in the United States. The success of, "2112," allowed the group to release their first live album, "All The World’s A Stage" a few months later. More...
This week Fuel From Hell offers up a new video, Ugly Kid Joe returns with “Devil’s Paradise” (as does the NEW Great White), and in the name of charity, a bonus SIXX:A.M. video makes an appearance. More...
Live shows are the backbone of the local music scene, but sometimes they are also host to the drama-laden, the dangerous, and the downright bizarre. Every week we get in touch with rock and metal bands to share their most memorable stories from live shows, and this week Spider Rockets tells a tale that's less brutal than many we've had before, but covers a constant problem at gigs: spilt beer and show-goers who have had a few too many.
We were performing in Berlin, Germany and there was this guy walking on the edge of the pit with a cup of beer. Turns out he was a bit too close to the action because next thing he was on his butt and his cup flew up in the air and he was showered with whatever had been in the cup. He jumped up, all wet, and was looking to go after whoever got him, but no one was paying attention. He was so angry! Later that night, we saw the same guy peeing against the building, so he must have gotten more beer to replace his flying brew.
Spider Rockets wants to be sure that everyone is ready to get "Bitten" with its new album on June 5th. To give the fans a taste of what they can expect on its new album, Spider Rockets is offering 10,000 free downloads of the new single “Scream.” Head over to this location and download your free mp3 now. More...
Let it never be said that heavy music only appeals to a small demographic. If it weren’t for four Rastafarian Black Sabbath fans, hardcore music wouldn’t be what it is today, and perhaps nor would heavy music in general. When the four young men from Washington D.C. discovered punk music, they would form a band that would influence thousands of others, with several of these becoming popular or influential acts themselves. Indeed, where would music be today without the Bad Brains?
The band originally formed as a jazz funk outfit named Mind Power in 1975 but their path was altered forever two years later when a friend introduced them to the punk rock sounds of the Sex Pistols and The Dickies amongst others. They soon became obsessed with the genre and changed their name to Bad Brains, inspired by the song, "Bad Brain" by The Ramones. Punk was not the only interest that gripped the four young men either. After witnessing a Bob Marley concert, they became enthralled by reggae music and the Rastafari movement. The groups original singer, Sid McCray left soon after the bands inception, and guitarist H.R. (Human Rights) took over the role as frontman. Their shows were notorious for their extremely high level of intensity and they became an influential force in the D.C. hardcore scene, particularly H.R. who claims he encouraged Ian MacKaye to spread the Straight Edge philosophy with his band Minor Threat and inspired Henry Rollins to join Black Flag. Such was the craziness of their live shows that they soon found themselves on the receiving end of an unofficial ban from many clubs in the D.C. area, and soon decided to relocate to New York. They were instantly accepted in New York and performed regularly at the legendary CBGBs club and with other young hardcore acts like Reagan Youth and the Beastie Boys (yes, those Beastie Boys.)
In January of 1982, the band finally released their first album, a self-titled effort available exclusively on cassette at first through ROIR Records. The album has since been hailed as one of the greatest albums in the history of punk and hardcore, if not the greatest. Its breathtaking blend of hardcore punk and reggae music made them stand out from their contemporaries, not least thanks to their obvious musical ability. They released their second album, "Rock For Light" the next year through PVC Records, and re-recorded several songs from their self-titled debut for the release, as well as including older songs such as "At The Movies" in addition to new material. More...
This week a group of reunited glam rockers, a band that has a “Fever,” and finally the return of Juliet’s Vice and their latest video.
Reunited New York rockers Grimm Jack explore the Hollywood lifestyles of Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton and the other West Coast tabloid queens for the single “Damned.” The track appears on the band's recent three-song EP of the same name. Immediately we are greeted with “Lemmy” style cranium accessories and liberal use of “Sunset Strip” and “Hollywood” in their lyrics. This song would have been perfect back in the day if Hillbilly Jim and The Junkyard Dog had they ever wrestled as part of a WWF Wrestlemania event. Of course, if I remember correctly, both of these guys were “good guys” so that could never happen, but if it had (and this song was around) it would have been a perfect.
We've been on a mission to get every band's favorite pit stories from live shows, and this week The Dogs Divine shares the following story of an unexpected on-stage dance session:
In 2008 we were doing a show in Melbourne Florida...and this girl from the crowd in a really short skirt and extremely tight top gets on stage. At first she just kinda starts dancing in one place, shaking her hips kinda thing. Well there is this large group of Military MPs that are shipping out in the next day or so to Afghanistan, so they are getting their party on before they leave, well these guys really start encouraging this chick to give them a show.
So, next thing I know, while we are in the middle of a song I might add, she starts going into this choreographed type of moves, I mean it looked like it came out of that movie Flash Dance. I mean spins and kicks and jumping and just all over the stage, from one end to the other. So much so the guitarist and I kinda had to move as far back as possible and basically hug the amps to keep out of her way and avoid a collision.
So we finish the song and it was one of those spots in the set where we just would do a four count on the high hat and go right into another song. So she stays on stage and starts this routine again. So finally we finish the second song and ask her, or rather guide her of stage.
Be sure to check back in again next Tuesday as we continue to share more mosh pit stories.
Every Monday we take a break from the news to highlight three lesser known bands that deserve a moment in the spotlight and can help expand your metal horizons.
Last year we showcased three side projects from black metal icon Ihsahn, but there are plenty of musicians from throughout metaldom who have a host of additional projects outside their most well-known bands. This week we’ll take a look at bands covering a range of sounds from the members of Borknagar, Katatonia, and Samael that all show a different side than what fans may be expecting from their favorite musicians.
While many may be aware that Vintersorg from Borknagar has had his own self-titled, folk leaning and clean singing focused project for years, it’s not as well known that he was also involved in a folk metal project called Otyg prior to his solo releases.
Otyg had a very ‘90s, proto-metal feel as the musicians were starting to explore the boundaries of the genre, and is a must hear if you want to explore the roots of folk metal or are into the early works of bands like Amorphis or Borknagar. The band released two full-length albums titled “Älvefärd” and “Sagovindars Boning” before going on hold indefinitely. The music is a little on the lo-fi side and not quite as bombastic or epic as the intricately arranged folk and orchestra stuff that has come out of metal in the interim, but just listen to that atmosphere!
Slaughter was (and still is for some) a guilty pleasure. A band spawned from the eighties, Mark Slaughter and company enjoyed major, but brief success with both “heavy” tracks as well as the all important power ballad. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was always Slaughter!
Formed in Las Vegas, Slaughter came in at the height of the glam metal movement. Mark Slaughter (vocals/guitar) and Dana Strum (bass) from Vinnie Vincent Invasion started Slaughter and recruited guitarist Tim Kelly and drummer Blas Elias. In 1990 they released the album “Stick It to Ya,” yielding immediate success with singles “Up All Night”, “Fly to the Angels”, and “Spend My Life.” Soon after they recorded the song “Shout it Out” for the movie soundtrack, “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey,” once again receiving heavy airplay on the radio and video plays on MTV. More...
The Cult has released the official music video for their new single, "For The Animals," from their forthcoming album 'Choice Of Weapon.’ More...